Monday, November 9, 2009

An update on Glenn Beck's domain name proceeding

Glenn Beck sought to terminate the domain name registration for Read about this dispute here.

Domain name disputes pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution policy can (and regularly do) incorporate international legal principles. After the initial complaint and response, the domain name owner's attorney sent a letter to Glenn Beck's attorney, asking him to stipulate that the principles of the American First Amendment will govern this dispute. Specifically, the domain name owner asked Beck to stipulate to 2 things:

1. The Parties hereby stipulate that the U.S. Constitution, including (and especially) the First Amendment thereto should apply to these proceedings and should govern the Panel's decision in this case.

2. The Parties hereby stipulate that the Panel shall not enter a decision in this case that would be contrary to the protections afforded to American citizens under the First Amendment, regardless of any international principles previously adopted by other UDRP panels or other international bodies.
Soon after this proposal, Beck's attorney filed a supplemental brief explaining that Beck "is an ardent supporter of the First Amendment right to free speech" and that he did not institute this action to censor the domain name owner. Beck points to some of the domain owner's other sites which contain the same information, but without the use of the trademark "Glenn Beck" in their domain names.

The domain name owner responded, renewing his arguments that no common law trademark rights have been shown, and no confusion is evident. He further argues that the UDRP proceeding is not "joke court" and the fact that Beck does not find the joke funny is entirely irrelevant. "Glenn Beck's name is not sacred, and it may be uttered with either reverence or disdain. The only way that the Respondent may not use Mr. Beck's name is to confuse the public as to the source or origin of his website -- a sin that has not been committed here."

The Panel denied Beck's complaint. For Beck to prevail, he had to prove:
1) The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Beck's trademark rights
2) The domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
3) The domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.
The Panel found that Beck provided substantial evidence that he has trademark rights in the mark "Glenn Beck." After noting that "even a moron in a hurry would not likely conclude" that Beck sponsored the offending domain, the Panel did find that the domain is confusingly similar with Beck's trademark.

Turning to the domain name owner's rights, the Panel found that the domain name owner is engaged in legitimate noncommercial or fair use of Beck's trademark. As such, there was no need for the Panel to address the bad faith element.

The lawyer who represented the domain name owner, Marc Randazza, also reports that the domain name owner, "Isaac Eiland-Hall voluntarily gives Beck the domain, saying 'point made, sir.'" Read Mr. Randazza's post here. The domain registrant's letter relinquishing the domain name to Beck can be found here.


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